Beliefnet News

United Press International
Chicago – Jul 31 – A U.S. study found that religiously focused physicians don’t disproportionately care for poor and underserved patients.
The study — conducted by Drs. Farr Curlin, Lydia Dugdale, John Lantos and Marshall Chin at the University of Chicago and Yale New Haven Hospital — examined whether physicians’ self-reported religious characteristics and sense of calling in their work were associated with focusing their practice on underserved patients.
The researchers said they found physicians who were more likely to report practice among the underserved included those who were highly spiritual, those who strongly agreed their religious beliefs influenced their practice of medicine and those who strongly agreed the family in which they were raised emphasized service to the poor.
Physicians who were more religious in general, as measured by intrinsic religiosity or frequency of attendance at religious services, were much more likely to conceive of the practice of medicine as a calling. However, the researchers said religious physicians were not more likely to provide services to the underserved.
The researchers concluded physicians who are more religious don’t disproportionately care for the underserved.
The study appears in the July-August issue of the journal Annals of Family Medicine.
Copyright 2007 by United Press International

By G. Jeffrey MacDonald
Religious activists with a moral agenda for corporate
America used to rely primarily on consumer boycotts and sympathetic
lawmakers to get the attention of Wall Street.
But now their toolbox is growing — and there’s a lot more money it.
Over the past decade, America’s market for religious investment
products has grown by more than 3,500 percent, according to data from
fund tracker Morningstar.
During the same period, faith-based mutual funds, which routinely
agitate for social change in corporate board rooms or shun stocks they
deem immoral, grew from about $500 million to more than $17 billion.
What’s emerging, observers say, is a market-based response to
popular demand for ways that people of faith can make their voices heard
on issues closest to their hearts. And people of faith — especially
social conservatives — are seizing what they see as a new opportunity
to make a difference.
“It’s just a matter of growing up” and adding more sophisticated
tools for advancing an agenda, says Ron Simkins, director of the Kripke
Center for the Study of Religion & Society at Creighton University in
Omaha, Neb. “Now, instead of boycotting Disney, they’ll be investing in
Fox Family Films.”
Religious conservatives are mobilizing to attach a voice to the cash
they already have on Wall Street. For example, the Tupelo, Miss.-based
American Family Association is for the first time urging its 2.8 million
online members to purge their investment portfolios of companies that
support a “gay agenda” or “anti-family” practices.
Yet, as social conservatives increasingly tether their agendas to
their investments, they’re hardly walking in lockstep. On the contrary,
they’re choosing among a range of religious financial products —
including 16 families of faith-based mutual funds — that vary in how
they define corporate responsibility.
Evangelicals, for instance, are getting behind more than one vision.
Some have contributed to the $600 million Timothy Plan, a family of
mutual funds with evangelical roots and a pledge to avoid “securities of
any company that is actively contributing to the moral decline of our
society.” Translation: screening out companies — including many in the
benchmark S&P 500 Index — affiliated with pornography, abortion,
gambling, tobacco, alcohol and non-married lifestyles.
However, evangelicals are also behind much of the $900 million
invested with the politically enigmatic Mennonite Mutual Aid (MMA)
Praxis Funds. This group avoids companies such as Pfizer, which fund
managers regard as manufacturers of abortion products. But MMA Praxis
also lobbies on behalf of shareholders for eco-friendly corporate
policies, and its pacifist orientation screens out stocks in defense
contractors and bonds issued by the U.S. Treasury.
MMA hears evangelicals saying “`I want more,”‘ says Mark Regier, the
MMA’s stewardship investing services manager. “`As an evangelical or
conservative Christian, I do care about the environment. I do care about
human rights. I do see the sense in being engaged with companies and
encouraging them to move to more positive positions on social issues.”‘
Roman Catholics, too, are taking their faith in different directions
on Wall Street. For instance, the KLD Catholic Values 400 Index attracts
investors concerned not only about abortion but also environmental
protection and discouraging overseas sweatshops. AHA Socially
Responsible Funds claims to embrace the teachings of the U.S. Conference
of Catholic Bishops. Ave Maria Funds, with about $550 million in assets,
sticks with just three criteria that it regards as paramount: no
abortion products or services; no pornography production or distribution
(including hotels where room TVs offer adult programming); and no
employee benefits for unmarried couples.
In some cases, faith-based funds seem to be accruing assets both
because of, and in spite of, their moral goals. The Amana Funds, which
specialize in investing according to Islamic principles, has grown from
$30 million under management in 2003 to more than $700 million this
year. A major reason, according to Deputy Portfolio Manager Monem Salam,
is the funds’ strong financial returns, which he says have attracted
many new, non-Muslim investors.
Still, promoters of what’s known as “morally responsible” or
“biblically responsible” investing are expecting the values component to
be a powerful drawing card.
Kingdom Advisors, a nationwide network of more than 1,200 Christian
financial advisers, this year created a subgroup of those who offer
biblically responsible investment products. Centurion Funds, named after
a faithful figure in the Gospel of Luke, launched less than a year ago
with a pledge from company President David Lenoir to “not just avoid the
`sin stocks’ but to look for the good in companies.”
And more than 600 investors, each committing at least $100,000 to
private money management with Stewardship Partners in Matthews, N.C.,
have demonstrated there’s a market for customizing equity portfolios
according to what CEO Rusty Leonard calls “red state Christian values.”
“Red state Christians (who tend to vote Republican in national
elections) give money to Christian ministries that try to sway the
political process,” Leonard says. “They got their people elected, but
they didn’t see their issues advanced to any great degree … .
Meanwhile, their opponents in the culture wars were coming around the
left flank and going into the corporate sector, which red state
Christians have ignored. We’re hoping to change that.”
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of
this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written

By Bruce Nolan
New Orleans – Nearly two years after Hurricane Katrina, members of
132-year-old Rayne United Methodist Church have finally moved back into
their storm-damaged sanctuary, even as masons continue substantial
repairs to the church’s toppled brick steeple.
Meanwhile, in Algiers, contractors are just starting what promises
to be at least nine months of work and more than $2 million in repairs
and expansion to Life Center Cathedral, where 1,000 people still gather
in a tent.
So it goes across the New Orleans area, where the recovery of about
1,500 damaged churches and other houses of worship has slowed to the
same hard slog that mirrors the recovery in general, according to a
church demographer.
Still, the members of Rayne Memorial and Life Center Cathedral are
in better shape than many. Even if their buildings were damaged, those
congregations have remained intact — if diminished — as nourishing
faith communities.
By contrast, the most recent numbers compiled by Bill Day of the New
Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary indicate that by the end of April,
about 30 percent of congregations in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany,
St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes still appeared to be missing from
the post-storm landscape.
In the hardest-hit parishes of Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard,
43 percent of pre-Katrina congregations have not returned, according to
Day’s research.
That represents slow improvement in the eight months since Day’s
previous benchmark, the one-year anniversary of Katrina. At that time
Day estimated that only 47 percent of congregations in those hard-hit
parishes were meeting; now it’s 57 percent.
Moreover, it appears across the board that surviving congregations
have lost significant fractions of their members. Day said it was not
uncommon to see surviving congregations functioning at two-thirds of
their former strength.
Although local churches have received considerable rebuilding aid
from other churches across the country, Day said their continuing
struggle no doubt reflects a hardship that construction dollars can’t
erase: the relative depopulation of many areas, especially St. Bernard
and lower Plaquemines parishes.
Urban planners and civic leaders generally think the recovery of
churches, synagogues and mosques both reflects and ignites a
neighborhood’s recovery. A neighborhood or region must support some
critical mass of residents who can come together to revitalize a
dormant congregation or renovate a damaged building. Places of worship,
in turn, can become centers for dispensing tangible services such as day
care, and vital intangibles such as rebuilding information and aid.
Day’s research teams of seminary students counted only 28 of 56
prestorm churches open in St. Bernard Parish, and 29 of 49 pre-Katrina
churches open in Plaquemines Parish.
In many cases, Katrina proved to be a brutal winnowing, decisively
killing off small institutions that were prosperous a generation ago,
before they lost their vitality because of population shifts or an
inability to attract younger members.
The wreckage of the post-Katrina landscape has forced major
denominations to cluster many surviving congregations together for
mutual sustenance until their prospects for recovery become clearer.
To varying degrees, both Catholic and United Methodist officials
have pursued that strategy with almost 80 damaged congregations in their
two denominations.
Starting this fall, the Archdiocese of New Orleans will
systematically revisit a 2006 plan that closed eight parishes or
missions and clustered another 20 badly damaged parishes around 17
viable churches. Although empty, those damaged parishes are still
technically open, and Day’s method counts them open, even though no
Catholic worship or ministry occurs in those neighborhoods.
In time, the archdiocese will have to decide which parishes have
sufficiently repopulated to warrant resuming operations, and which will
have to merge or close permanently.
Similarly, about three dozen damaged Methodist churches in 2006 were
grouped into seven clusters — recently reduced to three — in a plan in
which church members and pastors try to chart their futures in a
bottoms-up planning process, said the Rev. Martha Orphe, who is helping
supervise the process.
In the case of the Methodist churches, five congregations have voted
to close under the plan; two separate pairs of congregations are
actively exploring merger, Orphe said.
In the coming months, church officials and church members might
decide to close still more congregations, officials said. But in many
cases, that means churches are free to reinvent and perhaps revitalize
themselves in light of new circumstances, Orphe said.
“I have hope,” she said. “I do, I do.”
Copyright 2007 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of
this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written

by Michelle Rindels
Washington – Several Congressmen are urging the Department of
Health and Human Services (HHS) to investigate an allegedly
anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic chaplain at a government-run clinical
research hospital in Bethesda, Md.
The Rev. O. Ray Fitzgerald, a Methodist minister and former head of
the Spiritual Ministry Department, was demoted after a Catholic chaplain
that he fired was judged the victim of “discriminatory and retaliatory
animus” in an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decision.
But while the Catholic chaplain was reinstated, Fitzgerald still
holds a chaplaincy position at the clinic, which is run by the National
Institutes of Health (NIH). In light of a lawsuit and two EEOC
complaints against Fitzgerald, fourteen Congressmen want that changed.
“Intolerance has no place at the National Institutes of Health,
especially within the Spiritual Ministry Department,” wrote Rep. Chris
Van Hollen (D-Md.), who spearheaded the letter from Capitol Hill.
In a July 9 letter to HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt, a bipartisan
group urged him to send the administration’s Inspector General “to
investigate all allegations of impropriety and mismanagement.”
Allegations of intolerance include claims that Fitzgerald organized
schedules so some patients could not access a chaplain from their faith
tradition. Former chaplains complained that he fired those who
challenged him and that he referred to Rabbi Reeve Brenner as “the
butthead Jew” and “the crass Jew.”
Edar Rogler, a former Greek Orthodox chaplain who filed the lawsuit,
testified in an EEOC hearing that Fitzgerald told her that Catholic
priests are pedophiles.
The HHS issued a statement to The Washington Post saying the NIH has
already performed a thorough, independent review of the spiritual
ministry department. But with Fitzgerald still on the payroll, the
coalition still isn’t happy.
“We do not believe that the NIH management has acted sufficiently to
remedy this serious matter,” the letter said.

Copyright 2007 Religion News Service